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Newport council OKs study for former City Hall site development

Neighbors oppose building apartments at the 4-acre parcel. Hill says the site should support the shopping envisioned for the area.

June 26, 2012|By Mike Reicher

Facing public opposition to building an apartment complex on the to-be-vacated City Hall property, the Newport Beach City Council agreed Tuesday night to study the feasibility of a hotel there instead.

The study, proposed by Councilman Keith Curry, will also examine housing options, such as condominiums and apartments.

As the city staff prepares to move across town to the under-construction Civic Center, the council is looking to approve a development that would replace City Hall. The publicly owned 4-acre parcel is one of the largest in the Lido Village area, a district that city leaders deemed underperforming and pegged for revitalization.

The city has not yet thoroughly assessed the economic viability of proposed land uses.

"We just need to know what the numbers are," Curry said.

During an afternoon study session Tuesday, residents from Lido Isle and other nearby neighborhoods favored a boutique hotel. They criticized the previously approved alternative of apartments above a parking structure.

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"An upscale destination hotel would add more energy to revitalize the village that we love so dearly," Lido resident Leland Iverson read from a statement.

Iverson and other residents praised possible tax revenue generated by a hotel and listed less tangible benefits, such as creating a marquee building on the site.

A roughly 75-room hotel would be the largest allowed under city laws, said City Planner Jim Campbell.

Instead of at the former City Hall site, waterfront Lido Village would be a better place for a hotel, argued Councilman Rush Hill. An earlier months-long land use planning effort came to that conclusion, he pointed out. Hill also said the City Hall site might draw a lower-tier hotel operator.

The site should have residences to support the shopping envisioned for Lido Village, Hill argued. The Via Lido Plaza shopping center, for instance, has a large vacant supermarket waiting to be redeveloped.

"People in the hotel rooms don't buy vegetables to take back to the hotel room to cook," Hill said.

The previous planning effort called for market-rate housing, a community center and a public plaza on the City Hall property, but that plan was called flexible.

Since then, the council toyed with the idea of a parking structure there, but that was also nixed, following public outcry.

As of press time, the City Council had not yet addressed the police officer union's proposed contract.

mike.reicher@latimes.com

Twitter: @mreicher

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